At the Horn of Africa, exactly 230 miles from Yemen, there resides the beautiful, alien looking island of Socotra. Because of its weird looking fauna and flora, Socotra have rightly been dubbed _”The alien island ‘. Visitors to this island are left speechless and they all agree to the fact that Socotra is truly an island forgotten by men, blessed by the gods.
Let’s now take a closer look at Socotra
Socotra, also spelled Sokotra is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Though it official belongs to Yemen, the UAE has been exercising control over it for several years now.
The name Socotra is traced to the Sanskrit dvipa-sakhadara, “island abode of bliss. We need not to wonder why Socotra was named “The island abode of bliss”. The isolated island of Socotra which is considered to be a part of Africa, is home to a high number of endemic species, meaning that they can only be found in Socotra. 37% of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species do not occur anywhere else in the world. Socotra also boasts of a thriving and very diverse marine life with 253 species of reef-building corals, 730 species of coastal fish and 300 species of crab, lobster and shrimp. Because its very high biodiversity, Socotra has been termed the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean. In fact, the whole archipelago of Socotra is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
What makes Socotra Unique?
Socotra is unique because of the plants and animals found there. The umbrella-shaped Dragon’s blood tree and the Cucumber tree are probably Socotra’s most notable attractions. The Dragon’s blood tree whose red sap was thought to be the dragon’s blood of the ancients, sought after as a dye, and is today used as paint and varnish. The archipelago also boasts of an endemic fauna which includes several species of bird such as such as the Socotra starling (Onychognathus frater), the Socotra sunbird (Nectarinia balfouri), Socotra bunting (Emberiza socotrana), Socotra cisticola (Cisticola haesitatus), Socotra sparrow (Passer insularis), Socotra golden-winged grosbeak and much more. The flora and fauna of Socotra have adapted to the unkind environment including hot and dry conditions hence resulting to their unique appearances. Temperatures can get as high as 93°F.
Socotra is highly valued for its endemism and a lot of efforts have been put to protect it’s rare species of plants and animals. Few paved roads exists in the island so as to preserve its ecosystem. Because of how isolated the archipelago of Socotra is, it lacks many basic infrastructures. Internet is barely existent, there are few hotels, there’s no possibility of using your GSM mobile phone, and electricity is only available in the capital Hadibo. Also, there are no ATMs in Socotra, so, it will be wise to come with cash. Because hotels are only found in Hadibo, visitors to Socotra may have the opportunity to sleep outside in tents either in the desert or at the beach. What a great way to connect to nature.
Does anyone live in Socotra?
There are no current figures for 2022 but the current population is around 60,000. Socotra has an area of 3,796 km² and with barely 60,000 inhabitants, the area is greatly scarcely populated. You could hike for days without coming across people. The natives speak a Semitic language called Soqotri. The primary occupation of the people have traditionally been fishing, livestock farming and cultivation of dates. Ghee and tobacco are also cultivated in Socotra.
True, Socotra lacks in terms of infrastructure and financial strength, but one thing is a fact, Socotra is greatly blessed and is very rich in it’s biodiversity. If you ever visit Socotra, I assure you that your visit would be a memorable one.